Friday, July 12, 2013

Exploring Nanjing

Traditional way of choosing a child's career. Place the toddler on a mat and whatever he chooses will be his career. This little guy looks like he will work the land!

We spent our first Saturday in China being escorted around the city by our hosts to see all of the sites. I usually hate organized tours but this actually wasn't that bad. We were able to socialize a bit and we weren't dragged off to a cheap souvenir shop for most of the day that belongs to the guide's cousin or uncle.

Nanjing (known in the past as Nanking by some foreigners - isn't it wonderful, how foreigners happily change the name of places they visit!) is a large city, but then city and large in China seems to be synonymous! Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu Province and is located on the South bank of the Yangtze River and has been the capital for several dynasties. It is also where the notorious Nanjing Treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to Britain for over a hundred years and ushering in a period of invasion and colonial rule in China.

I first learned of Nanjing several years ago when I read a book entitled The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII by Iris Chang, which Chronicles the atrocities that occurred when Nanjing was invaded by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese war. It is believed that over 300,000 persons, including women and children, were tortured, raped, and brutally murdered over a period of a few weeks.

One of the many statues outside of the Nanjing Memorial
A terrific fictionalized movie which chronicles these events is 13 Flowers of Nanjing by Zhang Yimou and starring Christian Bale.

Nanjing is a busy city and as we drove through the streets there are stores and restaurants of every type both high end and local stalls. The streets are busy with construction as an underground is being installed. Our first stop of the day was the Nanjing Memorial. This was an extremely impressive Memorial chronicling the events of the tragedy and the personal stories of the victims.

Being politically correct, at least when it comes to the Japanese, was not an issue for our tour guide, Jean, who told us several times throughout the day, "Chinese hate Japaners!"

We also visited a house of the commoner...a modest little bungalow of 166 rooms which managed to escape the random destruction of the Cultural Revolution. Apparently, it officially was reported to have 99 rooms because no one could have more rooms than 100 ensuring that the Emperor always had the best place to live! This is now a museum /artsy hangout/tea room and some of our group who were a little bored with wandering through the endless maze of rooms managed to nip off into the tea room where we were able to watch some of a Beijing opera...actually very interesting!

Jump shot on the City Wall in Nanjing.
Five or six of us decided to make an escape from the tour at this point and headed out for a bit of an unescorted walk. These were obviously the rebels of the bunch! We wandered around for a bit looking for a Timmies, but lots of Starbucks in China! We eventually made our way back to the big group and we all headed off for our next stop...the wall of Nanjing. My new friends and I had a bit of fun, taking pictures, until we were again herded onto the bus to be taken to Confucius' Temple...I thought this might be an
Rachelle and I at Confucius Temple
interesting cultural experience but it turned out to be a very "touristy" area of shops, restaurants, vendors, etc. A little like the Bourbon Street of Nanjing. Very busy with lots of lights and people. We had another amazing meal here (but more about the food later) and my new friends and I were able to sneak off to get some bevvies before making our way to the bus. I think we gave our little guide, Jean, palpitations every time we wandered off as she was sure that some catastrophe was going to befall the foreigners before she could safely deposit us back at our hotel.

A nightcap with my new friends in the hotel lobby and then off to bed. Tomorrow we are on our way to our teaching assignments!

Relaxing with my fellow teachers.

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